Sometimes it’s worth going out onto the rocks to get a photograph. This is a picture taken yesterday morning of the houses along the waterfront of the Greenhead peninsula, just to the west of Stonington’s city center. There wasn’t a breath of wind, and the water was as reflective as a looking glass.
Maine is, almost by definition, off the beaten track, and it has a lot of parks and natural areas that are not very well known. One of them is the Holbrook Island Sanctuary. Yesterday morning Kish and I went “off island” to the mainland to visit the Sanctuary and get in some hiking on a sunny, late summer day.
The Holbrook Island Sanctuary is a huge nature preserve in Brooksville that has been kept in a natural state for decades. The property was acquired by a nature lover, Anita Harris, who donated the land to the state of Maine in 1971, and things seem to have been kept as they were then. The area is so rustic that the roadways in and out are packed earth, rather than asphalt, and the only facilities are a picnic area and a few outhouses. But it offers lots of interesting trails, the ruins of abandoned buildings, some old family cemeteries, and a chance to explore some of the different Maine ecosystems, from rocky coastlines to mud flats to steep hills, marshes, ponds, and deeply forested woodland mixed with intermittent meadows. It’s a favorite destination for birders, hikers, and nature lovers. The Maine state park website says that “alert visitors can see abundant signs of deer, fox, muskrat, beavers, otter, porcupine, bobcat and coyote.” We apparently were not sufficiently alert — hey, it was pretty early in the morning, after all! — because we didn’t see any of those critters, but we did see a lot of birds.
The Sanctuary has nine trails, none of which seem to be super-difficult. We took the Back Shore trail, which is well-marked and winds through forest and meadows and takes you past one of the cemeteries, where the gravestones date back to the 1830s, down to a rocky shore on the Penobscot Bay. We got to the shore at close to low tide, which meant we got a good look at the shellfish shells and the seaweed-covered rock beach. From the shoreline you can watch sailboats glide by and catch a commanding view of Castine, Maine, on the opposite side of the bay.
The Holbrook Island Sanctuary is a pretty place, and a kind of hidden gem. With eight more trails to check out, we’ll definitely be back.
This week I had a quick trip to Denver for work. It gave me the opportunity to have dinner in the Mile High City with the Second Secretary, who moved west about 20 years ago to escape Columbus’ winter dreariness — Denver, she cheerfully pointed out, gets sunshine 320 days out of the year — and loves it.
After I was finished with my meeting in one of Denver’s suburbs today, I asked my host if he had a recommendation for something to do before I had to catch my plane. He gave me two options: check out Golden, Colorado, an “Old West” town that is home of the Coors’ Brewery, or a drive up neighboring Lookout Mountain, where Buffalo Bill Cody is buried and where that old Indian scout claimed you can see four states. I chose the latter option, and in this case, at least, the old huckster and Wild West Show promoter probably spoke the truth. Lookout Mountain offers an amazing and commanding view due east, over the beginning of the Great Plains, where in the picture below you can just see the Denver skyscrapers hard up against the line of the horizon. If you were scouting for marauding bands of Sioux, or for that matter blue-coated cavalry, you could have worse vantage points. Lookout Mountain is aptly named.
Be forewarned: if you drive up Lookout Mountain from the 19th Street turnoff, be prepared for some white knuckling motoring, with lots of hairpin turns, sheer falloffs that make you dizzy just to look at, and cyclists huffing and puffing up the steep inclines on their way to the top. I felt like applauding them for their efforts, but they were a pain in the butt at the same time. Every time you would draw up behind a cyclist approaching one of the hairpin turns, you’d wonder whether you should swing around the cyclist standing on her pedals to keep going — and whether by doing so you’d be moving in the path of a white-knuckled driver coming down the mountain in the opposite direction. Of course, I decided to pass, and I didn’t have any problem. And when I met a cyclist at the summit, after I relaxed my hands and stopped thinking about the drive up, I offered my congratulations to him. In the photo below, you can see a bit of the road heading up to Lookout Mountain.
Interestingly, the internet sources describe Lookout Mountain as one of the “foothills” of the American Rockies. Foothill? Seriously? If there was a summit like this in the glacier scrubbed rolling hills of Ohio, people would drive from miles around to check it out. But when you’re just one of the easternmost parts of the majestic Rockies, perhaps “foothill” is a fair description. After all, Lookout Mountain is part of the front range of the Rockies, and the summit, where Buffalo Bill’s grave is found, is only a measly 7400 feet or so about sea level. Never mind that that is about 7000 feet taller than pretty much everything we’ve got in Ohio!
Buffalo Bill’s gravesite is a simple stone marker in a grove of coniferous trees that have a delectable, spicy smell. I’m not sure why people pitch coins onto the gravesite, but they do. Being a bit of a huckster himself, Buffalo Bill would probably like that.
I like the little flourishes you see in older buildings in America’s older cities. Even standard office buildings were not soulless cubes; the owners were proud of their buildings and wanted to make them seem grand and special — as opposed to throwing them up for the cheapest price possible.
I particularly enjoy the classical Greek and Roman architectural and sculptural references you see in some of the older buildings: the columns, the porticos, the arches, and occasionally the helmeted, winged head over the doorway. This silent sentinel is found over the doorway to the Leader Building in Cleveland.
Today is Ringo Starr’s 70th birthday. He is celebrating with a private event at the Hard Rock Cafe in New York City, followed by a concert at Radio City Music Hall.
I always thought Ringo Starr was a vastly underrated rock drummer. Because he was a character who became known for his “Ringoisms” — like “a hard day’s night” — I think many people considered him to be less important musically than other members of the Beatles. When Lorne Michaels offered some ludicrously small amount for the Beatles to reunite and play on Saturday Night Live, he specifically said that the other band members could give Ringo a lesser cut if they wanted to. It was supposed to be funny, but it was a cruel joke.
Sure, Ringo didn’t write many songs or have many singing hits when he was with the Beatles. (Ironically, for a few years after the Beatles split up, Ringo had the most post-Beatles hits of any ex-member of the band, with songs like It Don’t Come Easy and Photograph.) Nevertheless, he was the man who put the beat in the Beatles. He had rock ‘n roll in his soul and never let showmanship get in the way of keeping the beat. Listen to the ferocious drumming on, say, Twist and Shout and you will know what I mean. Anyone who likes to dance to the early Beatles tunes — songs like Dizzy Miss Lizzie or I Saw Her Standing There — should tip his cap to Ringo Starr because his excellent drumming made those songs easy to dance to. Even on his one drum solo — at the end of side two of Abbey Road — Ringo seemed to focus mostly on the beat, and not on technical flourishes or showoff riffs that detracted from the rhythm. Yet within that guiding framework, Ringo also was capable of inventiveness. Rain and Come Together are two pretty good examples of that fact.
I think it is safe to say that the Beatles without Ringo would not have been the Beatles. Happy Birthday, Ringo! Let’s celebrate with this video of Rain: